I'll be honest: From a comedy standpoint, nothing in this mailbag will remotely approach Sly Stallone's sparring session in "The Contender." That was like a gift from the Comedy Gods. What a man, what a moment, what a show. I haven't been delighted by a TV show like this in eons. More on this at another time.
Today? It's a special edition "I'm feeling giddy because Holy Cross plays for another Patriot League title this afternoon" mailbag! As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers ...
Q: This is what I don't get about why the guys who Jose Canseco says took steroids don't file lawsuits. If somebody writes a book and goes on "60 Minutes" and says, "I helped Bill Simmons plagiarize some articles when we were working together at The Crusader," wouldn't you file a lawsuit?
Roby Butler, Arkansas
SG: In a heartbeat. Take Raffie Palmeiro, for instance. The guy has made a crazy amount of money over the course of his career, probably in the neighborhood of $50 to $60 million. We already know that Canseco is pretty much broke. So if Palmeiro was innocent, why not hire a high-powered attorney and blow Canseco out of the water? I would think that any of these wrongly-accused players would be reacting like Harrison Ford in "The Fugitive" right now risking their lives to clear their names. And yet none of them has done anything. Makes you wonder.
(One other note on Canseco: I thought he made up most of this stuff to sell the book; but after watching him on Bill Maher's show last week, I realized that Canseco isn't smart enough to think two moves ahead in a game of Connect Four, much less come up with a master plan to bring down baseball and make some cash in the process. All things considered, he could be the most memorably dumb athlete in sports history. He's just devious enough to be dangerous, but his stupidity makes it impossible for him not to consistently say and do the wrong things, only he has no idea that he's such a moron. Or maybe he does. It's almost like he's had some sort of head injury. Honestly, I'm fascinated by him. The fact that nobody has given him a reality show yet actually makes me angry he's like a cross between Jessica Simpson, Carlo Rizzi and Tito Santana.
Q: Please tell me they are televising the Congressional steroid hearings in which Jose Canseco and other players will be testifying. How amazing would it be if Canseco's testimony went the way of the hearings in "Godfather II." Canseco is about to be sworn in, looks around the crowded room and remarks, "There's more people than a ballgame in here." Just then he looks to the door and sees Bud Selig walk in with a piercing look in his eyes, and sees his brother Ozzie Canseco standing next to Bud. When it comes time for Jose to be the rat everyone knows he is, he replies, "I don't I never knew no steroids. I got my own supplements, Senator."
Jeffrey Herrera, L.A.
SG: Since I have nothing to add here ... I mean, did you SEE Sly Stallone sparring last night? Why not go the whole nine yards and have Burt Young and the bald guy from "Rocky IV" in his corner? Is there going to be a training sequence next week where he climbs a 45,000-foot mountain in Russia? Seriously, he knows he's not a real boxer, right? Can we get a definitive answer on this?
Q: Did you realize that the gal who plays Alex on "The O.C." (Olivia Wilde) was on one of your favorite Fox TV shows ever "Skin," which lasted all of two episodes?
Roberto Gasparini, College Station, Texas
SG: And you know what else? HER FATHER WAS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!!!!!!!!!
Q: Have you seen a book called "The Fundamentals: 8 Plays for Winning the Games of Business and Life" by Isiah Thomas? I walked past it in a Barnes & Noble and thought that it's now official ... ANYONE can write a "how-to succeed in business" book. I think mine will be about making the correct selection from the vending machine.
Travis Bell, Washington, D.C.
SG: Look, if Rick Pitino can release a book after his Celtics' tenure called "Success is a Choice," all bets are off at this point.
Q: In your last mailbag, the e-mail about the WNBA and the $5 bill was great, when I read it the first time around. Go check out the mailbag you answered with Jimmy Kimmel. C'mon, Simmons. If you're going to run a "Best of the Sports Guy" column, let us know before hand.
Wes, Virginia Beach
SG: I'm threatening to shatter the all-time record for "Most people who have ever complained about a free column." Anyway, here's what happened: I have multiple documents filled with potential mailbag questions from the past four years, so when I was searching for a WNBA question, I stumbled across the one about the $5 bill and forgot that I used it last summer. The weird thing was that I answered the question two different ways. Apparently, I'm bipolar. Anyway, I apologize you're all getting refunds in the mail for $0.00.
Q: I had just finished reading your comparison on "The O.C." and "90210" when I realized something very disturbing. My dream girl would be a smoking hot chick with your personality. Should I stop reading? Should I pretend this never happened? If so, simply respond "uncomfortable silence."
Mike R., N.Y., N.Y.
SG: What about "trying to swallow own tongue"?
Q: My buddy Evan and I got a huge kick out of a new game last night. Next time you're watching a Suns game and they cut to close-ups of Mike D'Antoni on the bench, start saying things like:
1. "Top Gun rules of engagement are written for your safety and for that of your team. They are not flexible, nor am I. Is that clear?"
2. "I'm not gonna sit here and blow sunshine up your a--, Lieutenant."
3. "In case some of you are wondering who the best is, they are up here on this plaque."
Jim Bowling, Dallas, Texas
SG: Great, you've ruined the Suns for me. Now I'm never going to be able to watch another of their games without waiting for D'Antoni to tell Steve Nash, "And if you can't find someone to run that pick-and-roll, give me a call, I'll run it with you."
Q: Did you seriously just come out and publicly state that Pearl Jam or Smashing Pumpkins really could hold a candle to Nirvana? I know this is supposed to be about sports, but c'mon. You're way outta line. An "In Utero" follow-up wouldn't have been better than the 40-watt snooze powerhouse "No Code"? Or that "Infinite Sadness" crap? I haven't even finished the column yet, but I'm moved to respond. You're talking like Nirvana was J.R. Rider, when they were quite clearly Lenny Bias. (Maybe Biggie was Lenny Bias and Nirvana was Reggie Lewis. MAYBE.) Who would Pearl Jam be if we made the comparison now? Christian Laettner probably. And Smashing Pumpkins? Shawn Kemp.
Evan Brown, Northampton, Mass.
SG: Hey, I'm with you on Nirvana. Not only were they the defining band of that decade, their ceiling was higher than anyone else's ceiling at the time. But that doesn't change the fact that Cobain's death was the best possible thing that could have happened to them. Looking back, Nirvana was a little like Lorne Michaels, who always gets credited for making sketch comedy popular on television. As John Landis pointed out in the recent SNL book, there were sketch comedy troupes flourishing all over the country at the time. Michaels was smart enough to realize that this format could translate to TV, and he was the first one to pull it off ... but it would have happened at some point. Yes, he deserves some credit; just not all of it.
Same goes for Nirvana and alternative rock. Too many people mistakenly credit Nirvana with launching the grunge genre in 1991, when the reality was that dozens of grunge/alternative bands were thriving in Seattle and Los Angeles at the time they broke through, stemming back to Jane's Addiction's success in the late '80s. For instance, Pearl Jam released "Ten" (their first album) on Aug. 27, 1991, four weeks before "Nevermind" (Nirvana's breakout album), and yet most people mistakenly believe that Pearl Jam piggybacked Nirvana's sound and rode their coattails.
College radio stations started playing Nirvana's album right away because they had credibility from their first two albums, but Pearl Jam's album took nearly six months to gain any momentum. When it finally did, "Ten" was just as big as "Nevermind," with the big difference being that "Ten" was rollicking and enjoyable, whereas "Nevermind" felt like a grander achievement, like something had happened. Nirvana was like John McEnroe; Pearl Jam was Jimmy Connors. That's the best way I can describe it. Connors was great, but he was no McEnroe.
(As for the Pumpkins, they released "Siamese Dream" in July of 1993, one of the best albums of that entire decade and something that still holds up 12 years later. Just a kick-butt album. Their big mistake happened two years later, when they released "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" as a two-disc album when it had maybe nine good songs on it; if that had been 12 songs and one disc, everyone would have loved it. Whatever. I've written this before, but the best career move Billy Corgan ever could have made was blowing his brains out like Cobain did. Instead, he became a raving self-parody and it affected the way people remembered his music. I still remember seeing the "1979" video and thinking, "Uh-oh, we're in trouble ... ")
Anyway, Pearl Jam released "Vs." (their second album) in October, 1993, one month before Nirvana released "In Utero" ... and absolutely crushed Nirvana with it. Look, I was there. People were disappointed in "In Utero" at the time; everyone loved "Vs.," which sold more records, received superior reviews and had twice as many good songs. By any criteria you can come up with, Pearl Jam was the biggest rock band in the world in 1993 and 1994. Meanwhile, Nirvana was teetering along because Cobain was slowly going crazy because of his destructive relationship with Courtney Love, his drug problem, his death wish, his aversion to fame capped off by the mediocre "MTV Unplugged" album in December of '94, which actually made me sad when I watched it for the first time. It was like the end of an era.
The bottom line was that Cobain was slipping as a musician because of his personal problems; his songs were getting weirder and weirder; and if he had somehow managed to stay alive, he probably would have spent the next few years floating in and out of rehab centers and insane asylums. Since we don't know what would have happened next, we assume the best for him. Same goes for Lenny Bias what if he had a drug problem but didn't die? What if he ended up like William Bedford or Chris Washburn, or even had one of those Bernard King-type careers and had to get traded a few times before he found himself? We don't know how it would have played out, so we assume he would have been fantastic. By dropping dead, he became immortal. Same with Cobain. Now Nirvana gets credited with launching an entire era of music that was already in place when they broke through. How does that make sense?
Q: The Antoine Walker column was the first good thing you've written since your wife took away your onions.
Frank Verrelli, Providence
SG: Umm ... thank you.
Q: I used to think Ozzie Osbourne was a complete vegetable ... I just realized how good he really has it. He can just pretend he didn't hear or understand anything anyone ever said and get away with it. At any point, if he is not feeling what's going on in the room, he just gets up and leaves. How do you think Sports Gal would respond if anytime she asked you something you didn't like, you just shook your head and waddled out of the room?
David, Miami, Fla.
SG: Who said that doesn't already happen?
Q: What's your take on the media comparing "Million Dollar Baby" to "Rocky"?
Matt Graff, Ketchum, Idaho
SG: I think a better question would be, "Would you have liked 'Rocky' as much if Apollo sucker-punched him in their big fight, Stallone ended up a quadriplegic, and then Adrian pulled the plug on him and opened a coffee shop with Paulie?"
(And the answer, obviously, is no. That reminds me ...)
Q: Shouldn't it be a requirement that Hilary Swank make an acceptance speech every year for something, regardless of whether she is nominated for an Oscar, just for the sake of the UIC scale? "I'd like to thank the incomparable (insert actor she worked with that year) ... You ... you are ... my river ... from which all of this good fortune flows ... You are so beautiful. This is so ... splendiforous for me to be honored. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream and a part in 'The Next Karate Kid.' Thank you all. Wait! Hold on. Stop the music! I haven't thanked Mr. Miyagi yet ... "
Nathan Holtslander, Appleton, Wis.
SG: Every time she gives those speeches, I keep waiting for her to say, "And finally, I'd like to thank Joe E. Tata, whose incomparable brilliance was such an inspiration to me on the set of '90210' ... "
Q: What is the grace period for thinking about Hilary Swank in a sexual way after "Boys Don't Cry"? Is it the same as for criticizing a team after it wins a title?
Ryan Amari, Melrose, Mass.
SG: And for kissing a dog after it licks its own genitals five years.
Q: After reading over the intern finalists' new TV shows, I think they all missed one that would be a huge hit for ESPN6. It would be called, "Win Mark Blount's Money." Here's how it would go. After going through some tryouts, a player gets the opportunity to play in Mark Blount's place for one game. If he can better Blount's stats in one major category (points, assists, rebounds), Blount has to give that player the amount of money he would've earned for that game (about $85,000). If he can do better than Blount in all categories (including blocks and steals), Blount has to give him $1 million. Who wouldn't want to watch that?
Shane Ebbert, Provo, Utah
SG: I'd rather see a game show called, "Get Mark Blount's Attention During a Timeout." Three contestants would pretend to be the Celtics coach during a timeout, and they would have 90 seconds in the huddle to somehow divert Blount's attention away from the Jumbotron, the cheerleaders or the first five rows of the stands. It would be like the NBA version of "Make Me Laugh."
Q: I always thought "Indian Summer" with Elizabeth Perkins, Julie Warner, the girl from "Father of the Bride" and the immortal Diane Lane was the single greatest collection of hot actresses in one movie. Lately I'm thinking that maybe it's "She's The One," with Cameron Diaz looking as good as she's ever going to, Maxine Bahns burying Mia Sara's "Ferris" performance for "hottest chick to appear in only one film" ever, Jennifer Aniston arguably at the peak of her smoking hot Rachel years, and a young Amanda Peet thrown in for good measure ... thoughts?
Scott S. Washington, D.C.
SG: You prompted me to do some research on this one, only because I was prepared to say, "He's right, I can't even think of a movie with four comparably good-looking actresses," not to mention anyone remotely approaching Aniston and Diaz in their primes. "Secret Admirer" had Kelly Preston and Lori Loughlin; "Devil's Advocate" had Charlize Theron and Connie Nielsen; "Action Jackson" had Sharon Stone and Vanity; "Boomerang" had Halle Berry and Robin Givens. It's hard to find a movie with three in-their-prime babes, or even four of them. But here are four that compare favorably:
1. "Scream 2" Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Jada Pinkett, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rebecca Gayheart and Heather Graham. None of them matches the Aniston-Diaz combo; but collectively, that's a staggering array of talent. Practically an All-Star team.
2. "Beautiful Girls" Uma Thurman, Lauren Holly, Mira Sorvino and Natalie Portman (who wasn't even remotely legal at the time, as we've discussed at length in previous mailbags). I think Rosie O'Donnell canceled everyone out, though.
3. "I Know What You Did Last Summer" Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Bridgette Wilson and Anne Heche. Solid group, nothing outrageous.
4. "Bring It On" Kirsten Dunst, Elisha Dushku and a host of others. Probably the underrated Hot Chick Movie of the past 10 years, with the bonus that women enjoy watching it, which is almost like a get-out-of-jail-free card for guys. Just a murderer's row of talent here. As my buddy Paul said, "I needed an IV after watching that alone in my room."
(Note: At gunpoint, I'm still going with "She's the One." Seeing Aniston and Diaz in the same movie, at that point of their careers, was like watching Rice and Montana together.)
Q: How long before Ben Affleck is starring in "CSI: Boston?"
Steve Klepper, Baltimore, Md.
SG: That's like saying, "How long before 50 Cent gets shot again?"
Q: Is it safe to say that the Randy Moss black Raiders jersey will be the most influential and most important jersey in rap history? No article of clothing will transcend rap like this since the 1990 L.A. Kings matching Starter jacket and hat. The combination of Moss and the Silver and Black has to have the surviving members of NWA extremely excited. Snoop has been waiting for this day since he put his name on the back of a 1992 Penguins jersey. In fact, it might not be a stretch to say that Moss' going to the Raiders will not only make them a contender in the AFC West, but it will also put the West Coast rap game back on the map.
Double P, Queens, N.Y.
SG: I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but that was my first reaction when I heard about the trade "Wow, he's going to shatter the record for jerseys sold." Not only will every rapper, wanna-be rapper and gangsta on the West Coast be wearing one by July, I'm guessing that the only white person to purchase one will be Jonathan Lipnicki. This is going to be the jersey version of that year when Malcolm X came out and Spike Lee started wearing those "X" hats.
Q: With Kobe growing that Hollywood Hogan beard, how long will it be until "Voodoo Child" is blaring during Lakers introductions, with Kobe coming out in a purple and gold feather boa and playing the air guitar?
Brent Matson, Eden Prairie, Minn.
SG: Lemme tell you something: If Kobe colored his beard jet-black and did the Hollywood Hogan routine, that could be the one thing that ever got me rooting for him again. He could even have disciples like Hogan did with the nWo Brian Cook could be his Virgil, Luke Walton could be his Brutus the Barber Beefcake ...
Q: I'm a lifelong Sixers fan who always reads your columns and enjoys your writing. I even read the Larry Bird DVD columns, although I never imagined I would ever see them. Nevertheless, my neighbor is a huge Bird fan, owns the video and so I decided to watch the 60-point game with him as we were snowed in on Saturday. While it was a great shooting performance, it's really a fraud. He should've finished with about 52. With the game well in hand he should have been on the bench not only does he keep gunning, but the Celtics actually intentionally foul the Hawks repeatedly in the last seconds to gain extra possessions so Bird can pad his stats. Seriously, it's a Ricky Davis move. It was embarrassing; even my neighbor was embarrassed. He actually bricks a shot with like three seconds left, unguarded, then chases down the miss and shoots again at the buzzer. I'm shocked that you, of all writers, wouldn't acknowledge that.
SG: See, I'm going the other way on this one it drives me crazy when guys settle for fewer points during a career night. For instance, last January, Jermaine O'Neal had 51 points against the Bucks with 6:26 remaining in a six-point game. So what happened? They went to him five more times in the entire game; he went 1-for-3 from the field, 2-for-4 from the line and finished with 55 points.
What the hell? Why not go for 70? This wasn't like a Ricky Davis/Anthony Bowie situation, where guys made idiots of themselves going for a meaningless triple-double that nobody would remember 72 hours later. Only four guys have ever cracked 70 in a game: Wilt, Elgin Baylor, David Thompson and David Robinson. If you're feeling it, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime game, why not ride it as long as you possibly can? I never understood this logic.
And just for the record, there was a method to the Legend's madness in that 60-point game: McHale had just broken the franchise scoring record, dropping 56 points on the Pistons, and Bird couldn't believe that McHale eased up at the end, telling him, "You should have gone for 60; that record's not lasting long." By going out of his way to score 60 nine days later, I always thought he was proving a point to McHale, someone who lacked just enough of a killer instinct that it gnawed away at Bird (to the point that they were never close). Bird never cared about stats. Remember, at the beginning of the fourth quarter of a blowout in Utah, he refused to re-enter the game when he was one steal away from a quadruple double. That 60-point game was all about him and McHale it was the basketball equivalent of the scene in "Cocktail" when Koglan sleeps with Flanagan's girlfriend, just to prove his point that she was a slut.
Q: Scoop Jackson says that "Cornbread, Earl and Me" and "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars" are the greatest sports movies of all time. Where do you rank them?
Brian Artis, Newport News, Va.
SG: That's like asking me, "Scoop Jackson thinks the world is flat, where do you stand?"
Q: Is Drew Lachey becoming the Frank Stallone of reality TV?
Ryan, Clearwater, Fla.
SG: I can't decide if that's an insult to Drew Lachey or Frank Stallone. When you think about it, at least Frank appeared in "Rocky" 1 and 2, plus he sang the theme to "Stayin' Alive" which was one of the most underrated cheesy-yet-likable songs of that entire decade, right up there with "Don't Pay the Ferryman" and "The Kid is Hot Tonight." From what I can tell, Drew hasn't done anything other than the 98 Degrees gig, which speaks for itself. At gunpoint, I would say that he's the Don Swayze of reality TV.
Q: Wait, wasn't Brandon able to steal Dylan's girlfriend without violating the Guy Code because Dylan had already scored with Brandon's sister?
Tim R., San Fran
SG: Depends on how you define the Code of Guys. I feel like there are 14 levels in all, and I would stagger them like this:
Level 1: Erasing your roommate's season-in-progress on a video game memory card to start your own season.
Level 2: Taunting someone right after his team suffers a painful loss.
Level 3: Intentionally ruining someone's gambling karma at a blackjack table.
Level 4: Stealing porn from someone else's stash and not telling him.
Level 5: Giving out your buddy's personal information while drunk to his girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, then apologizing the next day by saying, "Dude, I didn't know what I was saying, I was hammered."
Level 6: Stealing money from a buddy without telling him.
Level 7: Hooking up with/dating a buddy's sister.
Level 8: Hooking up with/dating a buddy's ex-girlfriend or ex-wife.
Level 9: Framing a buddy for some sort of crime.
Level 10: Stealing a buddy's girlfriend or wife.
Level 11: Hooking up with a buddy's daughter.
Level 12: Hooking up with a buddy's mom.
Level 13: Hooking up with a buddy's underaged daughter, then explaining, "I thought she was 18!"
Level 14: Re-enacting the scene with Zed and the Gimp from "Pulp Fiction," only with your buddy playing the role of Marcellus Wallace.
Q: Hey, Bill. I just Googled "Bill Simmons sucks" (exact phrase) and came up with only two matches. Congratulations. Because "Dan Shaughnessy sucks" got three matches. And "Joe Buck sucks" got 22 matches. And "my life sucks" got 29,600 matches. I'm not sober.
Jason B., Vancouver
SG: Yup, these are my readers.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.